About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.

there will be a blood price to pay for this

I’m not at all sad that Qasem Soleimani is dead. As the leader of the Quds Force, he’s been responsible for a LOT of deaths, including those of US troops. But I’m outraged and alarmed by how and why he was assassinated.

First, this act seems a clear violation of Executive Order 12036, which includes a prohibition against assassination. “No person employed by or acting on behalf
of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in,
assassination.” You can call it a ‘targeted killing’ but that’s just a polite way of saying assassination.

Second, even if you’re willing to violate that Executive Order, openly assassinating the leader of the Quds Force is deliberately provocative. We’re talking 10-20 thousand special ops troops who specialize in unconventional warfare and intelligence activities. These guys are extremely loyal to Soleimani, and they know how to conduct terror operations. The Quds Force is capable of striking targets in the US mainland, but are FAR more likely to take vengeance on more convenient targets. That means every member of the US armed services located in the Middle East. And every person who works for any US agency in the region. And any US non-governmental organization. And any US businessperson working in the area. And their families. I don’t know who the most likely targets would be — but if I were considering retaliation, I’d set up coordinated attacks on US special forces commanders.

Third, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk from experts at terror operations, it’s exceedingly stupid to commit the assassination in the capital city of a third nation. That necessarily embroils that nation in the conflict, which is especially stupid when your embassy in that third nation has been mobbed by protesters for days. Iran and Iraq aren’t natural allies, but this assassination will make them both more hostile toward the US. What makes this even worse is that the US no longer has any real allies in the region — and it’s made doubly worse by the fact that Comrade Trump recently betrayed the only allies the US could count on (the Kurds). Nobody in the region has any reason to trust the US. Sadly, nobody on the globe has any reason to trust the US to keep its word about anything.

Fourth, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk from experts at terror operations, AND you’re willing to do this in a third nation in a region in which you have no allies, it’s wildly irresponsible and risky to do it after you’ve spent three years gutting your diplomatic corps and undermining your intelligence agencies. Even if other nations COULD trust the US, we’ve replaced most of our professional diplomats and intelligence analysts with political hacks and amateurs.

Finally, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk, AND you’re willing to do this in a region in which you have no allies, AND you’ve spent three years trashing your diplomatic corps and intelligence agencies, you should NOT have two different US agencies giving two different reasons for committing that assassination. Did we assassinate Soleimani to A) deter future Iranian aggression (as the Pentagon says) or B) prevent an imminent attack by Iranian terrorists (as the State Department says)? Pick a fucking story and stick with it.

It’s all so very sad and so unnecessary. The sad and terrifying truth is this: there will almost certainly be a blood price to pay for this recklessness. It won’t be paid by Trump’s family, it won’t be paid by the children of members of Congress or the children of the wealthiest clans in the US. That blood price will most likely be paid by poor and working class kids who enlisted in the military after graduating from high school.

That’s the ugly truth haunts me more than anything. I’m not at all sad that Qasem Soleimani was killed. But I’m sick at heart that his assassination in this manner will almost certainly end up killing kids in uniform.

MAGA evangelism at the uttermost parts

Okay, what I’m about to say is going to sound a tad crazy, but bear with me. Ready? Here it is: modern US evangelism is, in some very real ways, a lot like early Christian evangelism.

I should also include a disclaimer. I’m not a Christian. I was raised by a Southern Baptist momma and a sort of lapsed Lutheran father, and I’ve actually read the Bible and some history…but the religion never took so yeah, I’m not a Christian. Just so you know.

Now, here’s some Bible stuff. King James version, because it rumbles so much better than the modern works.

“[A]nd ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

There it is, right there: the foundation of early Christian evangelism. Be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the world. Go spread the gospel, the good news. That’s from the Book of Acts of the Apostles. The Book of Acts is basically an explanation of how and why the Jewish followers of the Jewish guy who was said to be the messiah of the Jews ended up not converting Jews in the Middle East but instead created a European church by converting pagans.

Without going into all the historical detail (which is really fascinating stuff and y’all should look into it if you’ve any interest in the sociology of religion), this is basically what happened. The followers of Jesus tried spreading the ‘good news’ to their fellow Jews in Jerusalem but didn’t have much success. So they looked for a more receptive audience among the pagan Romans. Christianity gained some serious traction about 300 years later when Constantine converted. About 50 years later, the Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Nicene Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Emperor Constantine the Great

That meant if you wanted to succeed in the Roman military or government, you became Christian. At least in name, if not in belief. It was sort of like joining the golf club where your boss plays. And since the Roman army occupied those uttermost ends of the earth, western Europe became Christianfied.

My point is this: the early Christians began as a small group of Jews who were ignored and victimized by the larger Jewish community who just wasn’t interested in their ‘good news’. So evangelists took their news to folks who were more receptive. In the same way, Trump Republicans felt ignored and victimized by the larger Republican ‘elite’ who weren’t interested in the ‘good news’ of a corrupt, failed businessman who was a braggart, a racist, and an inveterate liar who’d been married three times and unfaithful to each of his wives. So MAGA evangelists took their ‘good news’ to a more receptive audience. White supremacists.

Comrade Trump the Not So Great

If somebody were to write a modern Book of Acts it would be an explanation of how and why the followers of a rich, privileged, boorish New Yorker used working class racists to convert the leaders of the Republican Party to the cause of white supremacy. 

Because that’s what’s happened. Where early Christian evangelicals spread the gospel of Jesus, MAGA evangelicals are spreading the gospel of Trump, which is a gospel of white supremacist rage and victimhood. Where early Christian evangelists converted Roman leaders, who shaped the beliefs and behavior of their subordinates, MAGA evangelists converted the Republican base, who have shaped the beliefs and behavior of their leaders. And just like a lot of the early Christian converts, many of the converts among the Republican ‘elite’ probably don’t actually share the beliefs of Trump’s gospel. But in order to get ahead and stay in authority they’ll join his golf club.

Had it not been for Constantine, Christians might have remained a small religious sect in the Middle East. Had it not been for Trump, Republicans might have remained a respectable political party. We have Constantine and Christian evangelists to thank for the spread of early Christianity. We have Trump and MAGA evangelists to thank for the spread of modern white supremacy.

a short list of things I’d like to see in 2020

Last year at this time I put together a short list of things I’d like to see in 2019. I didn’t see any of those things. I didn’t really expect to, but still. Seriously, would it kill the Universe to do something nice for a change?

Anyway, it’s been a year so I thought I’d do it again. My expectations remain low. I’ll probably include a couple of items from last year’s list; if so, I’ll put a double asterisk beside them (why a double asterisk? I don’t know; it seemed right). So here, in no particular order, are some things I’d like to see in 2020:

— More greenspaces in cities and suburbs. And not highly manicured spaces, or spaces where they just let shit grow without caring for it, but spaces that are maintained while still allowing nature to take its course.
— Brett Kavanaugh busted for DWI.**
— A remake of the Highlander television show. I generally hate remakes, whether they’re movies or tv show, because the remake is almost always worse and more stupid. But Highlander had so much potential, and it only lived up to that potential about 25% of the time. Which ain’t bad for television, but still.
— A woman president. It would be stupid to vote for a woman for president simply because she’s a woman, but lawdy there are SO MANY qualified women out there. It’s WAY more stupid that a woman candidate has to be massively more qualified than a man in order to be seen as equal.
— Which reminds me. I’d like to see the patriarchy smashed into tiny shards, those shard ground into dust, that dust buried deep in the earth, the earth above it salted so that nothing will grow there for a thousand years. Or so.
— Which also reminds me. Donald Trump and his family of grifters and traitors in handcuffs.**
— Ditto his corrupt supporters in Congress.
— More front porches on houses. And friendly people sitting on them. In rocking chairs. Or swings.
— More electric modes of transportation. More electric cars, buses, motorcycles, motor scooters, bicycles, skateboards.
— Streaming services that allow you to buy specific shows without having to subscribe to the actual service. I’ve no desire to subscribe to Disney, but I’d like to see The Mandalorian. I’ve no desire to give money to Jeff Bezos, but I’d like to see Fleabag.
— The end of single use plastic bottles.
— Quiet spaces. Both indoors and outdoors. Spaces specifically set aside in which sounds are muffled or stifled. Businesses that commit to quietness would be given tax breaks.
— A ban on firearm magazines holding more than ten rounds.
— World Bollard Day. A day in which bollards are recognized and decorated around the globe. (I sort of mentioned this last year, but only seeking more respect for bollards; now I want them celebrated.)
— Reality Winner released from prison.
— More dogs welcomed in public venues. Coffee shops, libraries, taverns, etc.
— And, of course, actual usable pockets in women’s clothes. It’s 2020, for fuck’s sake.**

As before, I’m sure there’s other stuff, but this is all I could come up with while waiting for the coffee makings to become coffee.

What about you? What would you like to see in the coming year?

Addendum: Just wanted to include this: More shows/movies/anything starring Merritt Wever. Hell, I’d even watch a remake of Highlander with Merritt Wever as the Highlander. She’s that good.

bringing starbucks to a poo fight

The problem with Democrats…one of the problems with Democrats…damn it, one of the whole galaxy of problems with Democrats is the entirely wrong-headed notion that they have to act as if Republicans still have integrity. Democrats know the Republicans are an ideologically hollow party now. They know it with mathematical certitude. And yet they continue to pretend Republicans retain some tattered shreds of decency, honesty, and the virtues of rectitude.

That’s not the modern Republican Party. THIS is the modern Republican Party:

Kevin McCarthy is the House Minority Leader. There’s literally nothing in his tweet that’s true. The FBI did NOT break into Trump’s campaign, they did NOT spy on him, and since there was nothing to cover up they did NOT try to cover it up. This has all been firmly and openly established. This tweet is a series of blatant lies.

The modern Republican Party is a party of lies. Kevin McCarthy was elected as Minority Leader by his fellow Republicans in the House. This is a guy who received campaign donations from Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Giuiliani’s Ukrainian stooges who was trying to flee the US when he was arrested at the airport. This a guy who was actually caught on tape saying, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [former GOP Congressman Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump.” This guy is now openly lying to support the president he claimed was owned by Russia.

This is what the Republican Party has become. Treating Republican Party officials as if they have any integrity at all is like bringing Starbucks to a poo fight. The Republicans will take the Starbucks, drink it, claim it’s been poisoned, and continue to throw shit. The Democrats will frantically search for a receipt (which the Republicans will claim is forged) to prove they actually bought Starbucks to bring to a poo fight — not even recognizing that you have to be massively fucking stupid to bring Starbucks to a poo fight. Republicans know it’s stupid. They know they can lie all they want and get away with it. And they’re laughing their asses off.

There it is, right there — confused, gullible Democrats contending with vicious, venal Republicans. That’s why a shrinking population of Republicans can continue to hold power over a larger Democratic populace. This has to stop if we want to stay a democratic Republic.

I’m not saying Democrats need to throw poo like Republicans. I’m saying Democrats need to stop pretending that the Republicans are doing anything other than throwing poo. Democrats have to stop pretending that Republicans aren’t deliberately and knowingly throwing poo. Democrats need to say, openly and often, that throwing poo is immoral, that throwing poo is criminal, that it’s unAmerican, that throwing poo serves Putin. The DNC needs to start making political adverts linking GOP poo-flinging with Putin; they need to make adverts with former Republicans (especially those who used to hold political office) stating the only way to put an end to Republican poo-flinging is to remove the poo-flingers from office.

Democrats need to destroy the illusion that Republicans are still the ‘loyal opposition.’ There’s nothing loyal about the modern Republican Party. They’re not loyal to conservative principles, they’re not loyal to the US Constitution, they’re not loyal to the United States, they’re not loyal to anything other than a desperate need and desire to hold on to power.

emptiness and excess

I had to spend a chunk of time on secondary state highways a few days ago. I was a passenger for once, which meant I had the chance to look around and think. In the winter months, the Midwestern landscape can seem awfully empty. Every few miles you can see a clump of trees, which usually means a farm house and the attendant sheds and barns. A water tower lets you know a town is nearby. Occasionally you see some sort of agricultural industrial site; I’ve no idea what gets processed in these places, but they emit strange clouds of smoke or steam. Basically, there’s not much to hold your attention except fields and sky. Fields and sky and your imagination.

And I had a thought. Not an original thought, to be sure. Others have had this same thought and have written about it. But passing through the bleak winter landscape, the thought made more sense to me. Here it is:

This is what Donald Trump’s interior life must be like. Empty. Devoid of warmth. Cheerless. Comfortless. Unwelcoming. Desolate. Barren.

Like I said, not an original thought. Lots of folks have written about Comrade Trump’s emotional emptiness, his discomfort with any emotion that’s not rage or resentment, his absolute inability to empathize with others, his desperate craving for unearned respect, his boundless appetite for praise, his craving for having the ‘best’ without any concept of what constitutes ‘best’.

But looking at that exposed leaden landscape led me to wonder if Trump’s emotionally sterile inner life also accounted for his inability to appreciate beauty. He’s always surrounded himself with a chintzy sort of glamour, a gaudy display of tasteless wealth. All that cheesy gold ornamentation, all those extravagant flourishes, all that lifeless furniture that nobody wants to sit on — maybe that phony excess stems from a genuine attempt to bring some sort of brightness into his dreary, grim, inhospitable inner being.

Trump’s home.

More likely (and infinitely more sad), maybe his inner being is so vacant that he can’t even comprehend the existence of feeling something below the surface. Maybe the concept of inner grace and beauty is completely alien to him. Maybe he’s as incapable of experiencing and appreciating beauty as a weevil is of enjoying music.

Because another thing I became aware of during my road trip, is that if you appreciate beauty and grace, you find it everywhere. Even on secondary highways in the middle of nowhere at the approach of evening. Even in empty fields, even in isolated farm houses, even in the effluvia of mysterious agricultural plants.

very cool, but very sad

There’s a place called as the Sycamore Trail. It’s a rather grand name for about 130 acres of untended old-growth woodland tucked between the Des Moines River and a soccer pitch. The ‘trail’ is a 6.5 mile loop, a narrow dirt path for mountain biking. It’s linked to the High Trestle Trail — a paved 25 mile stretch of bike path that follows an old Union Pacific railroad line (including the old half-mile-long trestle bridge that crosses about 130 feet above the river)  — which itself is part of a 100 mile loop that connects with an even longer set of trails, which is…never mind. You get the point. Iowa has a metric buttload cycling trails.

This, believe it or not, is a bicycle trail.

The thing is, the Sycamore Trail goes through the woods. On a weekday, it’s generally deserted. On a weekday in December the only folks in the woods were my brother and I. We were out…let’s call it sylvan geocaching. That sounds so much more adventurous. I mean, sure, basically it’s just walking in the woods and using a GPS device to look for some sort of container that somebody stashed for no practical purpose at all except to give other folks a reason to go walk in the woods. But that sounds moderately ridiculous, to let’s call it sylvan geocaching.

This is not a bicycle trail.

So my brother and I, we were out sylvan geocaching, right? In the woods surrounding the Sycamore Trail on a singularly lovely day for early December. Almost 50F, sunny, not much of a breeze. Couldn’t ask for a better day to be noodling around in the woods sylvan geocaching. We didn’t stay on the trail, of course. We wandered through the flood plains, we slumped around the marshy oxbows, we pushed our way through the dry brambles, we clambered over the levee.

A levee, if you’re not familiar with the concept, is a dirt embankment intended to protect the land from flooding. This levee was about 15 feet high and anywhere from 30 to 50 yards from the river.

The levee.

Flooding is pretty common, which accounts for both the levee and the oxbows. It also accounts for all the downed trees and the odd bits of debris we sometimes see stuck up in the trees.

As we were noodling around sylvan geocaching, we noticed the outline of some sort of structure in the woods. It’s not uncommon, when you’re in the woods, to find the remains of sheds or the brick and mortar foundations of abandoned farm buildings. But it’s rare to find something that’s still standing. So of course, we went to investigate.

As we got closer, we realized it was bigger than we’d expected. Bigger and stranger.

Strange structure in the woods.

One of the reasons my brother and I go geocaching is because it takes us to places we wouldn’t ordinarily go, and we see things we wouldn’t ordinarily see. Things that are often completely unexpected. Like a 35-foot houseboat in the middle of the woods.

How did it get there? I mean, it was about a third of a mile from the river. Say 600 yards from the levee. That’s half a dozen football fields. How in the hell did it get there? We found a clue. The boat registration was still visible. It was dated 1993.

It’s called the Great Flood of 1993, but it actually began in the winter of 1992, when the American Midwest experienced heavier than usual snowfalls. The spring melt was followed by what the National Weather Service called an ‘extreme regional hydrological event’. In other words, it rained like a motherfucker — and it did it for a long time. There were persistent, repetitive storms that hovered over the Midwest. Between April 1 and August 31, the region experienced rainfalls that were 400–750% above normal.

Houseboat in the woods. Go figure.

In the end, the flood covered about 400,000 square miles over nine states. In some locations, the floodwaters stayed for nearly 200 days. Almost 55,000 people had to be evacuated; around 50 people lost their lives. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. Seventy-five towns were completely inundated; some small towns have actually been relocated — some were just abandoned. And at some point, the flood yanked this 35-foot houseboat from its mooring and deposited it at the far western edge of what would eventually become Sycamore Trails.

An oxbow along the Sycamore Trail.

The floodwaters receded, of course. Trees grew up. Twenty-six years went by. We’ve had more floods since then, though not quite as bad. Floods that are called ‘once in a hundred year’ floods, or ‘once in 500 year floods’ take place every couple of years now.

Finding that houseboat in the middle of the woods was incredibly cool. But it’s also incredibly sad. It’s sad because of all the suffering that took place. And it’s sad because the President of the United States, despite all the science and all the evidence, says climate change is a hoax.

The good news? A decade after the Great Flood of 1993, Greta Thunberg was born. So there’s that.

you never know, do you.

It’s official. I’m not saying that wearing a ball cap with ITMFA made any measurable difference, but hey, you never know, right? The thing is, it’s official. We’re actually going to impeach the motherfucker already.

I wish I could be happy about this. But I can’t. I’m not happy for two reasons. First, impeachment is an awful thing. It’s an awful thing even if the president deserves it (and Comrade Trump truly deserves it). Impeaching the president is like agreeing to have a gangrenous foot amputated. You don’t really want to do it, but you know it’s necessary in order to survive.

The other reason I’m not happy is because it looks like there’ll only be two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. They’ll focus entirely on the Ukraine mess. I understand this as a strategic decision; I get why Congressional Democrats have chosen this approach. I know it makes sense to streamline the process in order to limit the ways Republicans can fuck with it — because they will. The fewer the moving parts, the less that can go wrong. I get it.

But I’m not happy with it. I’d like to see more public hearings in the House — hearings on topics like criminal obstruction of justice, emoluments violations, or campaign fraud. I’d like to see some focus on Trump’s domestic crimes, which are just as troubling as his foreign fuck-ups. I think there’s also strategic value in that. I suspect there are a lot of voters who don’t much care what happens in Ukraine; it’s a long way off, in a place they’re never going to visit, and where they don’t know anybody. They may be sorry Ukrainians are fighting a war, but they don’t feel it’s got anything to do with them. On the other hand, a lot of those same voters would likely be pissed off if they felt Trump was using his office to pad his own pockets like a cheap crook.

I’d like to see an impeachment process built around the massive scope of Comrade Trump’s corrupt practices, but I’ll take what I can get. I’ll take it because I know how highly improbable it is that the Senate will fulfill their constitutional duties and convict. Still, impeachment is the right thing to do.

TMF who is going to be IA

And you never know, do you. I’m certain there are Republican senators who would like to see Trump gone, but have been too cowardly to do anything about it. Maybe one or two of them will find some courage. Maybe if one or two of them decide to vote to convict, others will take heart and step up. Maybe it’s actually possible that Trump will be tossed out of office.

It could happen. I wouldn’t bet my paycheck on it, but it could happen. So I’ll continue to wear my ITMFA cap, even if it doesn’t have any measurable effect. I mean, you never really know, do you.